Fazil Say performs selected Chopin’s Nocturnes

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Chopin
WORKS: Nocturnes: Opp. 9 & 15; in D flat, Op. 27 No. 2; in B, Op. 32 No. 1; in G minor, Op. 37 No. 1; in C minor, Op. 48 No. 1; in F sharp minor, Op. 48 No. 2; in F minor, Op. 55 No. 1; in E minor, Op. 72 No. 1; in C sharp minor, Op. post.; in C minor, BI 10
PERFORMER: Fazil Say (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 9029582181

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Never designed to be played all together, the Nocturnes are one of the harder of Chopin’s cycles (or non-cycles) to bring off en masse. Even though the composer’s genius ensures that no two of these pieces are quite alike, form and mood can get repetitive in the wrong hands. 

So the first point in favour of Fazil Say – making his first Chopin recording – is that he never over-sentimentalises or lingers unduly. Indeed, he is matter-of-fact in places, and generally his tempos are flowing. Say creates a fine sense of atmosphere in the barcarolle-like oscillations of Op. 9 No. 2, and brings individuality to the stormy middle section (almost Beethoven-like here) of Op. 15 No. 1.  The F minor Nocturne shows that Chopin rubato comes instinctively to him, too.

Yet on a recording promising nothing but Nocturnes, you could be forgiven for expecting a complete cycle. That’s not on offer on this single CD, of course, and Say’s solution is to play the first two groups (Opp. 9 and 15) complete before proceeding to cherry-pick from Op. 27 onwards, ignoring both the Op. 62 Nocturnes. Sacrificing some of these in favour of three posthumous Nocturnes seems an odd priority, though Say does play the C sharp minor piece very dreamily. Even if the ambient warmth of the recorded sound occasionally leads to muddiness, at least the tone is never clinical – the naturalness with which you can almost hear the hammers in the right-hand solo melody that launches the opening piece draws in the listener invitingly

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John Allison